Thanksgiving

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#ActionstoWords

Friday, November 19th, 2021

This Thursday we will celebrate the national holiday of Thanksgiving. Of all people, we who are Christ-followers must see and realize thanksgiving is much more than a national holiday where we get together with family and friends; eat gobs of food (way too much probably); park ourselves in front of a TV to watch a football game or two or three; and wile away the day as though it us just another day. In reality, it is just another day on a calendar, but it is a day which should remind us of something much greater: we have so much to be grateful for!

We do have much to be grateful for but we must also realize that gratitude is more than words; it also involves action. Words are useless unless they lead to sharing the gifts God has given us with others. One of the most firm statements of that truth is found in James 2. You know…that chapter that had Martin Luther thinking the book of James was a “book of straw.”

I will wrap up my 4 week series on Attitude Check this Sunday with a sermon I have titled “Putting Actions to Words.”  I will be using the 10 lepers as a lead in to gratitude but the bulk of the message will be looking at James 2: 14-26.

I invite you to join us this Sunday in person or online.  Next week I start a series around Christmas. (Go figure!) 🙂

#BlackHat#WhiteHat

Friday, November 12th, 2021

Well…this is embarrassing. As I looked at last week’s post about the sermon I used the information from the sermon but used the wrong title. It was supposed to be Pictures Don’t Lie but instead I used this week’s title. So…I apologize for the mix up. This week’s message is really entitled Black Hat/White Hat. 🙂

Many of you are old enough to remember when it was easy to tell the good guys from the bad guys. We used to say, “The good guys wore the white hats.”  If they didn’t wear them (literally) ya knew who the good guys were. Lone Ranger. Roy Rogers and Dale Evans. Wyatt Earp. Palladin. Even Perry Mason.  That, of course, was before the switch in culture began to call bad good and good bad, before we began to praise wrong and before the start of sequel #100 left us hanging at the end of the season or movie.

This Sunday I want to take this idea of the white hat/black hat and apply it to gratitude.  You see, we have this innate penchant for pushing the envelope, for seeing how close we can to the cliff without falling off. As we look at gratitude there are two sides to it.  My plan is to look at the dangers of ingratitude (black hat)  and compare them to the delights of gratitude (white hat).

Please join us if you are able. You can do that in person (9:00 and 10:45) or online (same time). I’d love to have you join us. If you watch online (we stream to the church’s FB page and YouTube), would you please do me a favor? Just let us know so I can see who watches. If you can’t join us for whatever reason (attending your own church is a good one), please pray for us. I would appreciate that a whole bunch.

If you watch online, you can go to the church’s website for the links.

#Gratitude#PicturesDon’tLie

Friday, November 5th, 2021

How do you know if you are a grateful person?  Because you say your prayers before you go to bed and say, “Thank You God for being with me today”? Is it because you say a prayer of thanks before your meal?

Truthfully, I want to say I am a grateful person. But how can I know? When you look into the mirror, and if you were to ask yourself, “Are you a grateful person” what would your answer be? How do you know?

I’m not trying to trick you with those questions. During this week’s sermon, which I have entitled Black Hat/White Hat (think old TV shows), I want to take a look at three characteristics of a grateful person.

A grateful person is transformed by Christ.

A grateful person is growing in gratitude.

A grateful person is dependent on God.

Obviously, I’m going to look at each one of these in a bit more depth. I invite you to join us in person if you can. If not, please join us live stream. If you can’t watch it “live” you can always go back to it another time during the week.  Thanks for praying for us.

#ThePivot#Gratitude

Friday, October 29th, 2021

Would you agree that given the current state of our world we need something to hang our hat on?

I think that coat rack is gratitude. Gratitude reveals each person’s core-his priorities, his presuppositions, his understanding of God, and his ways.  Truth: our gratefulness to God and our indifference toward Him lays the line of demarcation between wisdom and folly.  I am calling that “The Pivot.”

When a basketball player is dribbling and needs to change direction he pivots. When a player gets a pass and faces the hoop or turns on a dime, he must have a pivot foot. It is a foot that is always grounded. To move both feet while in possession of the ball is a “travel.’ (Unless, of course, you are in the NBA. Then you can run about 5 yards with it then shoot or pass).

In our walk with Christ, our future swings on a well-oiled hinge or one that is rusty and grungy. Gratitude is either a well-oiled hinge or it is old and rusty. I think it can be said whichever one is used the most…gratitude or griping, gratitude or ungratefulness. You choose.

My sermon Sunday is the beginning of a 4-week series called “Attitude Check.” It, of course, will lead up to the Sunday following the Thanksgiving holiday. And I suspect you can already guess my title: The Pivot. Join me please as we study from I  Tim.1:12-15 and Deut.33:25.

We had a dead battery pack for the first service last week so the quality was not as good as it should have been so I apologize for the lag. But the pack had sufficiently charged for the second service. If you missed last week you can watch it on YouTube. Just look for the 10:45 heading. We will be ready to go this week! If you can’t join us, please pray for us.

#LetFreedomRing#GuestBlog

Monday, July 5th, 2021

I read the following blog this morning (Monday).  It is from the Church & Culture blog of James Emery White, Pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church.  I thought you might enjoy reading it. Meanwhile, you might to also check out his website where you will find other blogs. Here you go:

On the 4th of July, I’m always reminded of times I’ve traveled in countries where freedom is severely curtailed. Or where the people have been freshly freed from the chains of injustice, and the joy of their release was palpable.

I was in Johannesburg on the 10th anniversary of the end of apartheid.

I was in Korea when the border between North and South was electric with tension.

My most powerful memory came from Moscow, where I was teaching shortly after the fall of communism. 

One night a group of us went to the famed Bolshoi Ballet. It was a long, wonderful evening, and after we took the subway back to where we were staying, the students said, “Come and let us celebrate.” The other two professors with me were as tired as I was, but the students were so intent on our joining them, that we went. 

And then we found out what celebration meant to them. 

They wanted to gather in the dining room and sing hymns and worship God. And we did, late into the night, with more passion and sincerity than I have ever experienced. It didn’t matter that we didn’t know how to sing in Russian—we worshiped God together.

But I went to bed puzzled. I had never seen such passion for spontaneous and heart-filled worship. I was curious as to why they were so ready and eager to offer God love and honor. I received my answer the following Sunday when I was invited to speak at a church in North Moscow. A former underground church that met in secret (as so many churches had been), they were now meeting openly in a schoolhouse. I had been asked to bring a message that Sunday morning. 

I didn’t know that I was in for a bit of a wait.

The service lasted for nearly three hours. There were three sermons from three different speakers, with long periods of worship between each message. 

I was to go last. 

When it was over, I talked a bit with the pastor of the church. I was surprised at not only the length of the service, but the spirit and energy of the people. Throughout the entire three hours, they never let up. In spite of the length of time, they never seemed to tire. Even at the end, they didn’t seem to want to go home.

“In the States,” I said, “you’re doing well to go a single hour before every watch in the place starts beeping.” (This was before smart phones.) He didn’t get my weak attempt at humor, but he did say something that I will never forget.

“It was only a few years ago that we would have been put in prison for doing what we did today. We were never allowed to gather together as a community of faith and offer worship to God. And we are just so happy, and almost in a state of unbelief, that we can do this now – publicly, together – that we don’t want it to end. And not knowing what the future might hold for us here, we know that every week might just be our last. So we never want to stop. So we keep worshiping together, as long as we can.”

As I left, his words never left my mind. I thought to myself, “I will never think about worship the same again. I’ve been too casual about it, too laid back, taken it too much for granted. These people know what it’s about – really about – and because of that, they have been willing, and would be willing again, to suffer for it. To be imprisoned for it. To die for it. Because they’ve discovered that it holds that high of a yield for their life. It has that much meaning and payoff and significance. It matters that much.”

And it should matter that much to all of us.

Happy 4th of July.

James Emery White

Editor’s Note

This blog was originally published in 2013, and the Church & Culture Team thought you would enjoy reading it again.

#Forgiveness#LessonsforReal

Sunday, March 21st, 2021

This past Sunday I preached about the necessity of the cross. I once again went to an unlikely Scripture for better understanding: Psalm 130.  Thanks to the late Dr. James Boice (see the end of this post for an interesting fun fact), I was able to make some excellent remarks about God’s forgiveness. I share those with you here:

#1- God’s forgiveness is inclusive. Verse 4 does not say, “There is forgiveness for this sin but not that sin.” It would be even worse if it said, “There is forgiveness for this sin” but then not include the one you or I are guilty of. God’s forgiveness sets no limits. The only sin not forgiven is the rejection of Christ.

#2- God’s forgiveness is for now.  The translators do it right here (v.4) by using the word “is.”  The original Hebrew is even stronger because it says, “With you forgiveness.” You or I don’t have to wonder about our future of standing before God or standing in trembling uncertainty. There is forgiveness for you, this moment, right now.

#3- God’s forgiveness is for those who want it. In verses 1-2 the psalmist says, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O Lord, hear my voice! Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my pleas for mercy!” Forgiveness is there but you must ask for it. One thing I have noticed over the years is God will never force Himself on anyone. You must ask. You must want Him. Notice the psalmist is confessing his sin in verse 1. Pleading for mercy in verse 2. And then believing and trusting God for that mercy in verse 4. 

#4- God’s forgiveness leads to godly living. Some people object to grace being a motivating factor because they say it leads to sin. You know that argument right? “Bill, if you teach about grace it will just give people a license to sin.” I see it as the opposite. The forgiveness we are talking about does not lead to license but to reverence for God. Notice the words at the end of verse 4: “to be feared.” That is reverence. A life truly changed by the power of the Gospel and the power of God’s forgiveness will not fall into a pattern of sin and disregard for God’s Word. The true effects of forgiveness are love and worship and service not license to sin.

So there you have it. Four lessons to learn and apply about forgiveness. I hope this helps you understand forgiveness a little more.

And now for the fun fact: Dr. Boice’s father was an M.D. who practiced in Duquesne, PA. and McKeesport Hospital. He was my family doctor. Today he would be called a Pediatrician. That was l-o-o-o-o-n-g before specialized medicine. 🙂 And there you have an interesting fun fact.

#Ingratitude#Guilty?

Friday, November 20th, 2020

I read something recently I thought was good. One man wrote:

Wearing shoes is optional. But eating is not. Driving a car is optional. But once you choose the option, driving on the right hand side (in America) is not…I’m not saying these things are impossible. You can choose to go without eating, but if you do you must take the consequences. You must be willing to exist at a low energy level, to invite infection and disease, and, if you persist, to die. You can choose to drive on the left but will pay fines and cause accidents.

In our life as a Christ-follower, we have an option of being good stewards with God’s blessings, or using His gifts for purely selfish means.  It is sad that because Thanksgiving Day is approaching that we find ourselves focusing on gratitude and God’s blessings when, if fact, that gratitude and those blessings are all-year around.

I’m going to make a very blanket statement which I firmly and 100% believe: we who follow Jesus ought to be THE MOST GRATEFUL people of all. Bar none. This Sunday I am going to recap some thoughts about God’s blessings I spoke about last week, but then I aim to draw attention to some examples in the Bible of people who were ungrateful.  What strikes me even more are the words Moses spoke in Deuteronomy 6 where he reminded the people what they had to be grateful for but added these words: then take care lest you forget them. Do you think God had an idea about His people? About me? About you?

This is the last in my series called Q & A and it has a simple title: What about Ingratitude?  Obviously I appreciate your prayers, but let me challenge you to take one step more: spend some time in gratitude for all God has done and given you.

#Blessed#CountThem

Friday, November 13th, 2020

Many of us can remember the old song “Count your many blessings name them one by one/Count your many blessings see what God has done.” It was especially pulled out of mothballs every Thanksgiving. And rightly so. But then again, it is sad. Why focus on blessings and saying thanks for them only when the holiday comes around?

British preacher, Charles Spurgeon, once said, “Memory is very treacherous, by a strange perversity-it treasures up the refuse of the past and permits priceless treasures to lie neglected.” I’m afraid that is true for many of us. We get so caught up in the bad of the past that we often forget the good that has happened.

Psalm 103 reminds us to “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me bless His hold name…Forget not all His benefits.” Here are four thoughts about God’s blessings that we should be aware of and I will be highlighting this week:

  1. God’s blessings are numerous and varied.
  2. God’s blessings are beyond what we deserve.  {Ain’t that the truth!}
  3. God’s blessings are poured out on the just and the unjust.
  4. God’s blessings have a purpose.

This Sunday I am going to begin a two-part sermon series on thanksgiving as part of my Q & A series. It is titled What about Being Blessed?  If you happen to live near us and attend or plan to, we will not be meeting in person this week. Strictly online.  You can find the links on our church’s website.  Our live stream will begin at 10:45 and will be scaled down to an opening song (prerecorded), a communion thought and the sermon. There will only be 3 of us in the building-me, Jo and Ryan.

Your prayers would be most appreciated.

#Miraculous#PrayerAnswered#Astounded

Tuesday, February 4th, 2020

I don’t normally “cross dress” my two blogs. As many of you know, I have this one (Cycleguy’s Spin) and another one-a devotional blog called “Living in the Shadow.” I decided to bring “Shadow” to this one today. Not many read “Shadow,” but I believe someone who reads this one may need to hear this today. So I share it with you here.

There has been and always will be a battle between seeing and believing the miraculous and being so jaded that even the miraculous is seen as mundane. Skepticism seems to rule so many peoples’ thinking.  Over the past 45+ years as a pastor I have had the blessing of seeing the miraculous. I’ve seen God work in ways that astound. I know some question the use of the word “miracle” and want to confine it to the NT days, but I’m going to use it to describe some recent events I have been privileged to witness:

  • A 13 y/o healthy young man finds himself suddenly fighting for his life. In just a matter of  days, he goes from healthy to life support. Prayers bombard heaven endlessly. “Miraculously” he goes from death’s door to home in a matter of weeks. He still has a haul but there is much to marvel at. Aslan was on the move!
  • A 20 month old boy born with a heart defect (left artery totally closed) has another surgery as a “last ditch” to get some blood flowing. Not only are the doctors able to open his artery 2mm (needs 10-12), but-and here is the absolutely incredible, “miraculous” element-he goes home less than a week after surgery! There is no other explanation except God’s hand. Aslan was on the move!
  • A man who does not acknowledge the God of the Bible has health issues. Heart. Feet. Heart supposedly has bacteria on his valves but surgery is risky because of infection in his foot. A cath late last week shows his valves are clear with no bacteria; his foot is healing; and he has heart surgery to replace two valves this week. The whole scenario is nothing short of incredible. And even though his idea of God is warped, prayers have been said on his behalf. I’d like to believe it is so he can hear about and respond to the true God of the Bible. Aslan was on the move!

Those are recent examples. It is easy to write them off as “the doctors did this” or “modern medicine did that,” but I believe differently. I’d rather say it is-if I may borrow Paul’s words from Ephesians 2: “But God.” Man may have knowledge (ironically given to him by God) and may even acknowledge it is limited; man may say, “If it hadn’t been for the doctors;” but it goes much, much deeper. Man’s limited knowledge shows God’s limitless power.

“Father, skeptics can be cast aside. They will never accept nor understand Your unlimited-dare I say miraculous?-power. Limitless. Powerful. Able to astound. Help me to never take that power for granted, nor take your wonder working power for granted.”

#SayingThanks#1/10#StigmaHealed

Friday, November 22nd, 2019

We are in the season known as Thanksgiving. I tell you that just in case you were born under a rock yesterday. 🙂 In many ways, Thanksgiving is the forgotten season. It is sandwiched between Halloween and Christmas, both seasons which play very well into our consumeristic society. Candy and gifts. What more could you ask for? The way Thanksgiving is overlooked it makes you wonder if we won’t see Uncle Sam in a sleigh pulled by 8 tiny rabbits.

My sermon this Sunday is taken from Luke 17:11-19. It is the story of the 10 lepers who asked for healing. Jesus sent them on their way and as they went they were healed. Only one took the time to come back and say thanks. Leprosy was an ugly disease and to be cured from it was monumental. It boggles the mind to think only one individual stopped and turned around to say thanks.

I guess I shouldn’t be so critical though. How many times have I been blessed or seen God move and forget to say thanks? My simple challenge this week will be to remind the folks to say thanks. Not to take God’s goodness for granted.  Your prayers for Sunday would be appreciated.

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I’d like to challenge you to do the same. With Thanksgiving next week, it is a time for reflection. Be sure to set aside some time to do so. Jo, Tami and I will be heading to Ohio early Monday morning to visit her sister and then stop off for a night in Columbus to our grandson and his parents. 🙂 Thursday noon the church is serving a meal for the community. I will approve your comments but will be missing most of the week. Thanks for reading.